The word “staycation” is much abused. It is a portmanteau word invented by travel journalists which has no real place in English (we have holidays, not vacations, so the apparent premise that you are stay[ing at home for your va]cation sounds unattractive anyway). Since we are stuck with the word, let’s use it properly. It is not a holiday within your own national borders (that’s just a holiday) but a period in which you stay at home and do things other than work, which may include day trips elsewhere.
Many, it seems, are so desperate to go abroad that they will risk anything – the indifferent contempt of airports and airlines, the selfish refusal of others to wear masks or observe distancing rules, the vague incompetence of government – to get to a beach in some foreign country. Others fight for beds in UK resorts despite the hostility of the natives, despite the eye-watering prices being charged by hotels and landlords understandably desperate to recoup some of their lockdown losses, and despite the possibility that Prime Minister Bungling Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Maundering Mutt Halfcock will suddenly impose some new internal travel restriction.
I love August in a typical year. There is little point in writing anything when there are so few around to read it. We stay at home while everyone else goes away. The streets fall quiet. It’s all a bit like lockdown with better weather. This August, however, things are different.
A man arrives tomorrow to paint my study. My theoretical ideal is a near-empty room, with lots of skirting-board visible, with a few well-chosen pictures, and with a place for everything and everything in its place. Instead I have always had furniture lined up round the walls like an antique shop, every shelf, drawer and cupboard full of stuff I might use if I could find it or even remember that I have it, and every surface too cluttered to clean easily. Every few years, I shove it all out into the hall, dragging it back again when the painting is done.
This time it will be different. Relativity’s David Horrigan has just republished links to some of the quotations from speakers at Relativity Fest, reminding me that in 2016 I ended my session on data retention with:
“If everyone kept less crap in the first place, we’d have less of a problem”.
I am practising what I preach. The shredder has run hot destroying files which have served no purpose for years. 24 old disk drives, accumulated because of the difficulty of disposing of them securely, are going to an external destruction company.
The tip and the charity shops are reopening. The newly-floored attic has room for things I am not quite ready to dispose of. Reducing the stuff means I can reduce the furniture.
It all takes time, however. If it is not perhaps what is generally meant by a ’staycation’, that is how I think of it, and if my output on here is reduced at the moment, well, everyone else is queuing at airports or jostling for space on beaches or other tourist attractions, so they won’t be reading about work anyway.
There is a secondary purpose behind all this. It is a Zoom world now, and my cluttered room made a poor background for the online meetings, webinars and videos which we must adapt to. With less stuff and less furniture, plus a coat of paint, I can make a more appropriate setting for online activity. Instead of choosing flights and hotels, I have only to choose a colour scheme, some pictures and decent lighting.
All of which is harder than one might think. Normal service will be resumed shortly.